Street photography has traditionally been a very male-dominated arena within the photography world. But a new book aims to change the stereotypical view of this area, by showcasing the work of 100 contemporary women photographers from 31 countries.
The book is called Women Street Photographers (Prestel, March 2, 2021), edited by award-winning photographer Gulnara Samoilova. The book aims to push the boundaries of street photography in new and exciting directions, introducing a panoply of non-traditional approaches to the medium drawn from women of all ages, races, ethnicities, creeds, and sexualities.
Gulnara’s career experience is part of the reason for a project like this. She originally hails from the republic of Bashkortostan, Russia, and faced blatant sexism in the photo industry before arriving in the United States in 1992, where she worked at the Associated Press before launching her own commercial photo studio. After the 2016 presidential election triggered flashbacks to her formative years, Gulnara recognized the importance of creating a platform and community to support women. She initially launched Women Street Photographers as a website to provide opportunities to showcase the work of established and emerging artists through exhibitions, residencies, online features. And now it has been turned into a book.
Along with the images curated by Gulnara, the book featured an introductory essay from photographer Melissa Breyer who explores how the genre has intersected with gender throughout history, looking at how cultural changes in gender roles have overlapped with technological developments in the camera to allow key historical figures to emerge.
Her text is complemented by a foreword by renowned photojournalist Ami Vitale, whose career as a war photographer and, later, global travels with National Geographic, have allowed a unique insight into the realities of working as a woman photographer in different countries. In turns intimate and candid, the photographs featured in this book offer a kaleidoscopic glimpse of what happens when women across the world are behind the camera.
As the world continues to evolve and we see more women rising up to positions of power and leadership, taking up space publicly, it is no wonder we see more female photographers examining this change through a distinctly female gaze. This compelling collection of images reflects the shift in street photography that is increasingly seeing more and more women, accompanied by personal statements about their work. Variously joyful, unsettling, and unexpected, the photographs capture a wide range of extraordinary moments.
We have selected some of the images from the book and shared them below with accompanying quotes from the artists:
Birka Wiedmaier: “In Turkey it is common for couples who are getting married to have wedding portraits taken. I watched this couple for quite some time while their pictures were taken on a small beach in the town of Sile. This scene was the one that fascinated me the most. It felt surreal to see the bride with her beautiful dress draped over this small boat, in contrast to her surroundings. Everything seemed to revolve around her; the groom can hardly be identified. In the surrounding bedlam she is the anchor and definitely the center of attention.”
Bruna Rotunno: “The photo was taken when I was shooting for my book Women in Bali. The daughter of a maid who worked in some villas nearby was tempted by the pool and since it was raining, no one else was swimming. So she shyly looked around and dived in, sure that no one would see her … I felt the magic of the moment when she completely surrendered to the water, in a surreal instant of daily life.”
Danielle L. Goldstein: “New York City is vast, in its architecture, infrastructure, and commerce, as well as in its sensory onslaught and constant supply of humanity. That is what makes it both fascinating and overwhelming. It’s easy to get lost here. I aim to highlight these individuals and their relationship to the structures of the city. Bringing awareness to the city’s small moments is an act of devotion to the individuals who reside here and to the beauty of their surroundings.”
Emily Garthwaite: “It was almost 7pm and I watched bus after bus filled with commuters leave the terminal in Kolkata. Some were happier than others. I must have stayed there almost an hour waiting for an interesting character, the right lighting, the right look. This ended up being the shot.”
Florence Oliver: “Nightfall. The departure is announced. Those luminous golden lines are about to move and to accelerate. A woman on a nearby train lights me up with a smile. I like these moments when a small abstraction hides in the reflections and creates a story. I was a painter at first, then moved on to photography, mainly using my iPhone. As a lover of reflections, I am moved by the abstraction they give to the eye. It is a real joy and a challenge to explore their complexity, their vagueness, until I find the fragile resonance of an emotion.”
Orna Naor: “For the last thirteen years, Israeli women from the Machsom Watch organization have helped bring women and children from Palestinian villages to the beach; for most of them it’s for the first time in their lives. Their fear and anxiety soon change to joy and laughter.”
Regula Tschumi: “I see street photography as a most interesting and challenging field of expertise, and it has the great advantage that I can make it everywhere in the world. Street photography satisfies my curiosity, gives me a great pleasure to explore all kind of new and well known places, it allows me to live out my creativity and it gives me a pretext to get in touch with people. Streets are never boring, there is always something happening, it all depends on myself.”
B Jane Levine: “I am a photographer shooting candid images with a focus on people in New York City. I take photographs of strangers as they traverse the city streets. I attempt to capture authentic moments when the subject is unaware of my presence. I photograph to find the human elements that make me feel part of the society. Everyday I get up and look forward to what the streets have to offer.”